To celebrate the impending arrival of winter, here are some tips on how to keep riding through the cold and sometimes wet.
After years of winter riding, I’ve found that the obstacles were as much emotional as physical and that if I invested more in personal infrastructure, I could handle the weather.
Starting from the top, I buy a helmet cover. If you wear a hat under your helmet, cold rain and snow still get through. A helmet cover keeps both cold air and rain/snow off your head.
Windproof ear band, neoprene face mask and ski goggles: I wear these when the temperature drops below 40°. Cold air hitting my eyes and face makes me feel vulnerable—one of those obstacles more emotional than physical.
GoreTex jacket. There are a lot of waterproof and breathable products out there. GoreTex costs more, but I think it’s worth it for a jacket/parka. Jacket hints: If you can, get one with snaps instead of Velcro, which causes as many problems as it solves in garments. I bought an unlined shell and also wear a fleece jacket when it’s below 30°.
Wind and rain pants. I use both, depending on the weather. The rain pants are generic waterproof-breathable. They work okay and are cheaper than GoreTex, but I know they will wear out faster if used every day, so I switch to regular nylon wind pants for dry weather below 40°.
Pants hints: Get full side zips; they’re easier to get on and off. Ripstop nylon may be too light; look for taslan nylon.
Boots. In snow, I use Tingley rubber pull-ons, bought at a local farm supply store.
On the bike; lights, fenders, tires. It’s frustrating that bike lighting systems are so primitive, but at least LEDs and batteries have gotten better. Lights are essential, front and rear. If possible, I get lights powered by AA batteries, rather than AAA. Light hint: Get lights that are hard to remove. That way, you won’t have to take them off when you leave it parked. When was the last time you had to remove your car headlights to keep them from being stolen? That’s what I mean about the primitive state of bike lighting.
I buy plastic fenders for all of my commuter bikes. Essential.
Last but definitely not least, I buy carbide-studded snow tires. I rode for years without them, but in retrospect, I have no idea how I survived without falling on the ice. They have made it possible to ride through anything. I leave them on a set of wheels and change them when needed.
Good stuff isn’t cheap, but if you’re not paying for a car…
Links to vendors for some of these items are on this web page: http://staff.knox.edu/pbailley/winter-biking.html